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River Town Chronicles: The snow and cold – they really tire me

Published: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Before last week’s deep freeze that kept faucets dripping and dogs in booties, there was snow. No one loved it more than sledding kids – and tire companies. The white-out pushed more rubber out the door than if it had hailed nails.

When driving on snow-packed streets felt like a go-cart’s slick track, I took our car to the nearest of a hundred thousand boxy look-alike tire stores. At the counter, I was talking to a young Johnny Depp impersonator, until I unfolded a consumer watchdog list of tire rankings, when Charlton Heston hip-checked Depp aside.

“That’s no good. Wouldn’t go with them,” Heston’s finger dismissed one brand after another. “They’ve got issues ….” Then, he tapped the first-place – and most expensive – Michelin Defender. “You want peace of mind, go with the Defender.”

Who doesn’t want peace of mind? It’s been my aim in life ever since the turbulence of adolescence ended when I turned 35 or 40.

“Let’s go with the Defender,” I said with wheel authority.

“Now,” Heston added, “do you want your new tires aligned?”

I thought, sure, put them on all pointing in the same direction. “Is that extra?”

“Run you, oh,” he mused as if I asked his favorite Christmas present, then disclosed the price.

“Let’s go with it,” I said with Gen. MacArthur conviction.

Told it would take an hour, I decided to wait. Heading to the corner where faux leather couch and chairs crouched before a TV financial program along with one other customer, I quickly (15 minutes later) mastered the Starbucks coffee maker. When the person left, I turned the TV’s sound off and happily read a novel.

Soon, more folks arrived, but no one asked about or touched the sound. Instead, Depp and Heston would wander over to announce, “You could use a transmission flush;” “Your brakes are worn to point-three centimeters minus pi squared;” “Your wipers are torn to shreds.”

We tried to parry the inevitable, “OK, do it,” with, “Umm, can I see the brake?” “It really needs flushing?” “How torn are they?” We might as well have been questioning the density of Conestoga wagon axle grease.

Two hours later, Johnny Depp pronounced my car ready. Handing over my credit card, I realized something even more incredible than my bill – even though they looked bored as working gastroenterologists, no one waiting had turned up the TV’s volume.

A psychologist or philosopher might conclude that this Midwesterner cross section lived meek, modest and conforming lives, too cautious or polite to question or change the status quo. Count me in that number; remember, not until alone did I turn down the TV. No way would I presume my needs should disrupt anyone else’s peace of mind – even though they might not.

Moreover, I agreed to buy the Michelin Defenders over the much-lauded, consumer-watchdog approved cheaper brand. Oh, advertisers know this too well – we often favor emotion over intellect.

I’m good with that. After all, who am I to think otherwise?

• Rick Holinger has lived in the Fox Valley since 1979. He teaches high school in Aurora, and his poetry, fiction, essays, criticism and book reviews have appeared in numerous national literary journals. He founded and facilitates two area writers groups. Degrees include a Ph.D. in creative writing from UIC. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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